Many non-vegans accuse vegans of being persuasive and only interested in animal rights, more than human rights. For them, vegans don’t care about equality or justice, as long as animals are being treated right. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Being vegan is just as much a human rights issue as it is an animal rights issue and it is also an environmental rights and health issue.
Human rights form an intrinsic part of being vegan. We are currently growing enough food to feed between 10 to 12 billion people. Yet, in this world with 7 ½ billion people, over 800 million of us are living in a state of starvation. This is because the food is used to feed livestock instead. We feed 56 billion land animals every year, with grain that could feed humans.
82 percent of starving children live in countries where food grows solely to feed livestock. In other words, we are taking food from starving women, children and men, to feed animals, only so we can eat their meat and secretions. In fact, the grain used to feed American livestock alone, can stop world hunger and feed over 800 million hungry mouths.
Slavery, poisoning and mental health
In Thailand, inhabitants are kidnapped and forced into what is called ‘prawn slavery’, where they are forced to work on shrimp and fishing boats. The workers live with the treat of being killed if they stop working or try to escape.
But also within Western societies, slaughterhouse workers have some of the highest rate of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse and even suicide. By spending their entire work days slaughtering living beings, the psychological and mental implications are enormous.
But that’s not it. Even if we wouldn’t care about the environmental consequences we are facing and will threaten our world in the near future, it’s also threatening the lives of other human beings. The meat and dairy industry systematically displaces the Amazonian tribal people from their homes in the Amazon. We clear massive amounts of land to form areas of cattle grazing and crop production.
In Bangladesh, latter tannery workers are being exploited en masse, with 95 percent of the people who worked in that industry die before the age of 50, because of the toxic chemicals used to process leather. As these chemicals get into the water supplies, the rivers and water streams, it poisons the people in the nearby surrounding areas as well. All the toxic wastewater makes its way into the Buriganga River, which is considered to be Dhaka’s lifeline. Thousands of people depend on the river daily for bathing, washing clothes, irrigation of food and transportation of goods. The river has suffered extreme biodiversity loss and has now turned black.
You see, there are so many problems to do with human rights and our exploitation of animals. The two interlink entirely.
An ethical human
All kinds of oppression are intertwined, not only are animals a victim of our own system, but our earth and fellow humans are also suffering because of it. The argument that vegans only care about animals, or are emotional and weak hearted, is therefore invalid.
Raising children that feel empathy towards animals, the earth and the wellbeing of other people, will make them emphatic humans in general. The root of all oppression is the idea that some lives matter more than others. That’s why there are many cases of racism and discrimination in our society toward one another. If the idea would arise that every species or being deserves to be treated with respect and love, there will be more harmony and respect toward each other.